Posts Tagged ‘le mans’

MotoGP Le Mans Results 2017

May 21, 2017

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Rossi kicks it away; Viñales leads series 

vinales-on-yamahaedited

Today at the 30th running of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, youth triumphed over experience.  Yamaha Top Gun Maverick Viñales withstood a classic last lap challenge brought by teammate and legend Valentino Rossi to capture Yamaha’s 500th grand prix win.  The youngster ended his day on the top step of the podium, the grizzled veteran his, prostrate in the gravel.  Ten years ago, Rossi would have won this race.  In 2017, the tide she is maybe beginning to turn.

Practice and Qualifying

FP1, on a wet but drying track, provided the usual comedic results found in wet sessions, with Jack Miller over a second clear of Marquez and Zarco, with the Espargaro brothers, Pol on the KTM and Aleix on the Aprilia, finishing dead last together, not having it.  FP2, wetter yet, saw Andrea Dovizioso put his Ducati in front of Marquez and Danilo Petrucci, another mudder.  FP3, still soggy, was topped by Scot Redding, Cal Crutchlow and Miller again.  FP4 was dry—Viñales, Pedrosa, Rossi, and Zarco–but by then the lambs and goats had been separated.  That things were out of kilter was exemplified by Scot Redding leading the Q2 lambs.

The goats relegated to Q1 included some recognizable names—Tech 3 rookies Zarco and Folger, plus Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dovizioso.  Dovizioso led Zarco into Q2 after an exhilarating 15 minutes, with the Frenchman climbing into second place at the tail end of the session.  But both KTM bikes—Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro—had already passed straight into Q2, along with a few other surprises—Karel Abraham and Loris Baz among them.  Go KTM.  Go GP15s.

When the dust and fumes cleared after Q2, we were left with an all-Yamaha front row of Viñales, Rossi, and Zarco, followed by Cal Crutchlow, Marquez and Dovizioso.  The announcers were so caught up in homeboy Zarco’s last lap push for the front row—crowd going mental—it barely registered, to me anyway, that Viñales had taken his second pole of the season, his first since Qatar.

Meanwhile, Pedrosa and Lorenzo, both having podiumed at Jerez two weeks ago, found themselves starting 13th and 16th, respectively, having failed to pass through Q1.  The cool temperatures, one believes, hindered Pedrosa, who always has trouble heating up his front tire.  The possibility that it was raining somewhere in France appeared to affect Lorenzo, whom one reader has described as suffering from aquaphobia, not to mention bipolar disorder, gobs of self-recrimination, and in need of a full reset.  His ride today, from 16th to 6th was respectable, his Friday and Saturday not so much.

The Race – A Yamaha Cakewalk.  Almost.

Zarco, starting from the middle of the front row, put his head down at the start and, entering the second turn, had taken the lead, with Viñales, Rossi, and Marquez comprising the front group.  It appeared that Marquez was working harder than the Yamahas and that Viñales and Rossi were keeping their powder dry, waiting for their fuel loads to drop before taking on the rookie.  On Lap 7, Viñales went through cleanly on Zarco while Marquez began dogging Rossi.

A second group had formed up consisting of LCR Honda hooligan Cal Crutchlow, factory Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso, and Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa who, having started 13th, was busily slicing his way through the field.  Pedrosa pushed his way past Crutchlow and into 5th place by Lap 15, turning his attention to teammate Marquez.  Suddenly, on Lap 17, under pressure from Pedrosa and with the Yamahas getting away, Marquez lost the front in Turn 3 (for the third time in two days).  His two DNFs in the first five rounds have a decidedly 2015 flavor to them.

Rossi went through Zarco on Lap 23 and unsurprisingly began lining up Viñales.  Thus began five laps of primo quality racing, as the veteran and the wünderkind squared off, one on one, for bragging rights.  Rossi went through into the lead on Lap 26, a scene we’ve witnessed scores of times over the years.  But Viñales took it back as Rossi ran wide midway through the last lap, trying to block Viñales, then laid his M1 down in a gentle low side late in the lap trying to overtake him yet again.

Valentino Rossi was not interested in finishing second today.  It was his for the asking, and he politely refused. Upon his departure from the racing surface, Zarco got promoted to a silver while Dani Pedrosa suddenly found himself on the podium, through almost no fault of his own.  One more time, class: “In order to finish first…”

Those of you who recall my prediction that Aleix Espargaro would put his Aprilia on the podium today undoubtedly share my angst at seeing him parked by the side of the track, head lowered, smoke wisping from his engine. After a terrible qualifying session, he had been climbing the order all day from 18th place at the start and, to my thinking, could have easily snagged third place had his engine not given out.  Just sayin’.  No need for anyone to point out that he crashed out of 8th place on Lap 24.

Ranking the Bikes

Sparing no expense, we here at MO have commissioned a non-scientific study ranking the overall capabilities of the various machines found on the grid.  In doing so, we relied on mood more than methodology.  The following rankings emerged:

2017 Yamaha

2016 Yamaha

2017 Honda

Ducati GP17

2017 Suzuki

2017 KTM

Ducati GP15

2016 Honda

2017 Aprilia

Ducati GP16

Readers are encouraged to take issue with these rankings.  We will re-rank the riders in our preview of the upcoming Mugello round.

Sidebars

The fact that Jack Miller is still with us after the crash he experienced on Saturday is nothing short of a miracle.  He later qualified in 11th place in the dry Q2 after dominating FP1 by a second and a half, having gambled on slicks late in the session.  [I wonder if the “mudders”—Miller, Petrucci, etc.—regret having developed a reputation for riding well in the rain at 190 mph.  Comparable to those guys who make a living tying themselves to the back of an enraged bull and trying to stay attached for 10 seconds after someone touches an electric prod to his nuts.  That moment when you think, “Am I really doing this?  Is this at all sustainable?” ]

Was it my imagination, or did pretty much every satellite Ducati in the field crap out today?

Finally.  The grippy new racing surface was supposed to lower qualifying times by a second or two.  Last year Lorenzo qualified at 1’31.975.  This year, on a dry, perhaps somewhat dirty track, Viñales qualified at 1’31.994.  But at the end of the 28-lap race on medium tires, Viñales and Rossi were trading lap records every time around.  Viñales set the newest lap record on the last lap of the race. So, the new asphalt appears to meet the ideal spec of non-abrasive with good grip.  And Michelin appears to have figured out Le Mans.

The Big Picture

Watching all three races today, I got the distinct impression that MotoGP is on the verge of being taken over by the ludicrously fast young riders populating Moto3 and Moto2.  Viñales beats Rossi and Zarco beats Pedrosa today, and one gets the impression that leadership amongst the premier class is on its way to turning over.  The Rossis, Pedrosas and Lorenzos seem to be in jeopardy of being pushed off center stage by names like Viñales, Zarco, Bagnaia, Morbidelli, Mir and Fenati, among others.

Until you look at the 2017 standings and see Dani Pedrosa and Vale Rossi grazing near the top of the food chain.  Veteran riders occupy four of the top seven spots for the year, five if you count Marquez. Maverick Viñales has put himself 17 points clear of his nearest competitor as the season turns toward Mugello.  He will have to keep eating his Wheaties if he intends to stay there.

PS–I neglected to post the Le Mans preview, which you can find right here.

 

MotoGP 2016 Le Mans Results

May 8, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Lorenzo Romps; Chase Tightens at the Top 

The record books will show that Yamaha defector Jorge Lorenzo won today’s French Grand Prix by 10 seconds over teammate and rival Valentino Rossi.  The mainstream racing media will be busy slavering over young Maverick Vinales, who put a Suzuki on the podium for the first time since Loris Capirossi did so at Brno in 2009.  The real story of today’s race, however, was the eight riders, including at least three contenders, who crashed out as if the race had been run in the wet, marking the first time the Rain Gods have ruined a race on a clear sunny day. 

Q2 on Saturday was a study in contrasts.  Defending world champion Lorenzo lay down a 1:32.2 early in the session, which would have sufficed to put him on his first ever premier class pole at Le Mans, in front of Marc Marquez.  Later, he pitted, changed the rear tire, trimmed an annoying hangnail, then went back out and casually posted a 1:31.975, becoming the first rider ever to crack the 1:32 barrier on two wheels.  Meanwhile, Dani Pedrosa, suddenly the “presumptive” #2 rider on the factory Yamaha team for the next two years, lost the front entering the Dunlop Chicane, narrowly avoided getting creamed by several following riders, and ended the session sucking canal water in 11th place.  Rossi, for his part, struggled through a flashback to 2015 while securing 7th, mired on the third row on a narrow track not terribly conducive to overtaking, as if that made any difference to the Italian icon.

[Lorenzo’s lap begs the question:  What’s all the fuss about the standard ECU?  If qualifying lap times were two seconds slower than last year, opponents might have an argument.  From here, it doesn’t appear to make any difference in qualifying.  That it makes things more difficult at race distance is somewhat more credible.]

28 Laps of Mayhem

As expected, when the lights went out, Lorenzo took the hole shot, assumed the lead, withstood a minor early threat from the factory Ducatis, and ran away from the field.  My notes on Lap 2: “race over.”  Fans were thus reduced to enduring a battle for second place, comparable to spending 45 minutes to see who would lose The Super Bowl.  For the record, the early first group was comprised of Lorenzo, Ducati teammates Dovizioso and Iannone, Marquez and Pol Espargaro on the Tech 3 Yamaha, who got swallowed up by Rossi on Lap 3.

Marquez appeared to be struggling, while Rossi was recovering from a poor start.  Iannone went through on Dovizioso on Lap 6, and it appeared Dovi was ready to strike back until he perhaps remembered the newly issued and oppressive team rule prohibiting such a move until the next lap.  Fortunately for him, Iannone, who seems to be developing some kind of adversarial relationship with success, crashed unassisted out of second place on the Lap 7 in a replay of his bonehead move in the season opener in Qatar. The hapless Scott Redding’s Pramac Ducati retired at about the same time when his engine, in his words, “simply stopped.”

Iannone’s crash moved Marquez up to 3rd and Rossi to 4th.  On Lap 8, Cal Crutchlow crashed out of Tranche 5, as did Tito Rabat.  By now, Lorenzo’s lead over Dovizioso was 1.5 seconds.  Yonny Hernandez, working his way out of a good job, crashed on Lap 9.  On Lap 12 my only note was “here comes Rossi.”  Vale went through on Marquez at Garage Vert on Lap 13 and passed Dovizioso one lap later to take over 2nd place, with Lorenzo barely visible in the distance.

Marquez was losing great gobs of yardage to Lorenzo and Rossi exiting the corners, forcing him to brake late and hard entering the turns and putting a big load on his front tire.  My sole note on Lap 15: “Marquez going down.”  Sure enough, on Lap 16, both he and Dovizioso went down simultaneously at the Museum Corner.  The remarkable visual reminded me of an old James Bond movie in which his tricked out Aston Martin, at the mere touch of a button, sprayed oil on the road, causing the bad guys chasing him on motorcycles to slide off into the woods.  The net effect of the Lap 16 double dip was to elevate Vinales to third place, from which he would hold off Dani Pedrosa.  Otherwise, aside from Jack Miller’s customary crash on Lap 18 and Bradley Smith’s unfortunate off on Lap 20, that was that.

So.  Someone please tell me the last time a race run under perfect conditions featured eight riders crashing out, not counting Redding’s retirement.  At the post-race press conference, Lorenzo said it was an ongoing issue with the Michelins, with riders not being fully under control at any time on the track.  Rossi said it was just racing.  Vinales said it was having less control on the brakes with a full fuel load.  I wasn’t asked, but my belief is that the Rain Gods planted the expectation of a wet track in the riders’ heads and it stuck.  Having gone out on slicks, the results were almost predictable.

Yamaha to Settle for Dani Pedrosa? 

The latest rumors in the media suggest that Vinales, having played too hard in his negotiations with Yamaha, has been turned away in favor of…Dani Pedrosa?  It may be that today’s podium will cause Yamaha to up the ante again, but, if not, it seems Yamaha has taken a very short term, conservative and dull approach to filling Lorenzo’s seat.  Yes, Dani is still a good rider; that his best days are behind him is pretty clear.  Yes, he will be a threat to podium most weekends, with perhaps a few wins left in him, but he will not win a title.  Instead of taking a bold step, choosing a young gun, a Vinales or Rins, to serve as Rossi’s wingman and #2, primed to take over the top spot in 2019, Yamaha appears to have kicked the can down the road.

If Iannone, Dovizioso and Marquez had not collapsed mentally today, Pedrosa would have finished seventh.  Just sayin’.

If Pedrosa signs with Yamaha, it raises a larger question concerning who will take over the #2 seat at Repsol Honda.  Iannone would have been the logical choice last year, but has proven himself thoroughly unpredictable, a personality trait not highly prized in Japanese culture.  Marquez would object to Rins, and Rins might not be enamored of the idea of wrestling with the RC213V in its current state.  Pol Espargaro could be a good candidate, except he’s always been a Yamaha guy.  (Why Yamaha has not given Pol more consideration is a mystery.)  And any reader who suggests that Cal Crutchlow is the obvious choice should immediately seek therapy.  Five points in five rounds; the scoreboard doesn’t lie.  Honda might as well promote Alex Marquez, who himself has managed four crashes and five points in five rounds in Moto2.

Looking Ahead

A recent Facebook meme, directed at women, said, “Sure, it’s all fun and games until your jeans don’t fit anymore.”  The same could be said for the MotoGP calendar, with Mugello, Catalunya, Assen and The Sachsenring looming.  Two weeks from now the season will be a third gone, and the standings at the top are as tight as wallpaper.  The Movistar Yamaha team loves Mugello; I’m not sure Marc Marquez loves any circuit other than Austin right now.  The factory Ducati team will be looking for something, anything good to happen at their home crib in a season racked by disappointment and bad luck.  Team Suzuki Ecstar, brimming with optimism, will want to build upon their recent success.

We have arrived at the heart of the 2016 MotoGP calendar.  The silly season will be heating up, too, with Tech 3 Yamaha having this week signed Jonas Folger from Moto2.  (Folger celebrated his promotion by crashing four times at Le Mans, providing a reasonable impression of Toni Elias at his most lethal.)  Even on days like today, when the race was a snooze, there’s always something to argue about in MotoGP.

Lorenzo leads Yamaha rout in France

May 17, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Le Mans Results, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com 

On a picture-perfect afternoon in the French countryside, Movistar Yamaha bruise brothers Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi delivered a clear message to the grid, notably Repsol Honda upstart Marc Marquez:  anyone even hallucinating about a world championship in 2015 will need to go through us.  Lorenzo, in a replay of his win in Jerez last time out, took the early lead and was never challenged on the way to his 35th career win in MotoGP.  Rossi had to slice his way through several Ducati GP15s to secure his ninth podium in a row and 13th out of 14 dating back to last year.  Meanwhile, it was another forgettable Sunday for Repsol Honda. 

Rossi & LorenzoLorenzo had been fast during the three dry practice sessions, got himself a mani-pedi during a wet FP4 (led by the Great French Hope Loris Baz), and qualified on the front row despite electronics issues.  Marquez, appearing rather unsettled all weekend, rallied during QP2 for a blistering pole lap, half a second clear of factory Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso, in what would be his high point of Round 5.  Rossi, once again unable to get anything going in qualifying, started from the front of Row 3, as if it matters where he starts.  With 200 201 podia under his belt, The Doctor knows it’s where you finish that counts.

A typically hectic start to the race saw The Rider Formerly Known as Crazy Joe, recently Maniac Joe, and now Ironman Joe (racing despite a dislocated shoulder suffered on Monday) Andrea Iannone immediately trade paint with Marquez, the Spaniard getting the worst of it.  Once the dust settled, it was Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Iannone, Marquez and Rossi forming up the first group.  Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa, in his first race back from arm surgery, started eighth and was running seventh on Lap 2 when he lost the front in Turn 4.  He re-entered the race in 24th place, and spent the day testing his arm, finishing 16th.  His condition heading to Mugello in two weeks is anyone’s guess.

The race announcers speculated it was braking problems that were causing Marquez to climb from fourth place early to sixth place by Lap 5, as he ran wide several times, seeming, with a full fuel load, more out of control than usual.  Rossi, once again looking young and dangerous, pushed Marquez out of the way on Lap 3, bolted past Iannone on Lap 11 and stole Dovizioso’s lunch money on Lap 13, appearing eager to set up a battle with Lorenzo for the win.  And though that joust did not materialize, an epic battle behind Dovizioso for fourth place did, the combatants being Marquez, the wounded Iannone, and Last Brit Standing Bradley Smith on the Tech 3 Yamaha (countrymen Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding having by this time ended up in the gravel).

With the race three-quarters over, whatever had been bugging Marquez early on appeared solved as he stalked Smith, Marquez in Sepang 2013who was himself preparing to go through on Iannone into 4th place. Over the last seven laps of the race, Marquez and Iannone conducted a cage match reminiscent of their days fighting in Moto2.  Smith, who on Lap 21 was lining up Iannone for fourth, found himself, instead, in sixth place on Lap 23, sucking air, while Marquez and Iannone went at each other with bayonets, changing places at least a dozen times.  Some of the best racing of the year was going on here, with Smith waiting for the seemingly inevitable crash of one or both riders that never came.  Marquez crossed the line on Lap 24 in fourth position, where he finished, while Iannone held Smith off long enough to claim fifth in as gutty a performance as one is likely to see, his left shoulder held in place by adhesive tape and popsicle sticks.  One might argue that Smith deserved a better result today, but in the end the factory bikes prevailed over his satellite entry.  Hard cheese for sure; no apology needed.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Aleix Espargaro and his factory Suzuki called it a day with mechanical issues early, the rider nursing a world of hurt suffered in a brutal high side in FP4.  Brother Pol on the other Tech 3 Yamaha finished quietly in seventh, with an overachieving Yonny Hernandez driving his Pramac Ducati to a gratifying eighth.  Maverick Vinales, who seems to be getting the hang of things on his own Suzuki Ecstar, punked Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci at the flag for a very decent ninth place finish, with Petrucci, promoted up from the hapless Ioda Racing team after last season, showing us why, ending the day in the top ten.  Nicky Hayden took top open class honors on his Aspar Honda in 11th place, followed by Baz, Avintia Ducati plodder Hector Barbera 13th, Eugene Laverty 14th (for his first premier class points) and Alvaro Baustista closing out the points on his Gresini Aprilia.

The Big Picture

After five rounds, Movistar Yamaha owns the top two spots in the standings, Rossi clear of Lorenzo by 15 points, both looking ready to rumble into Mugello.  Dovizioso, sits four points behind Lorenzo in third, while Marquez, in a completely unexpected turn of events, saw his 2015 season deteriorate even farther, trailing Rossi by 33, his swagger and apparent invincibility of the past two years missing in action. Iannone, who with Dovizioso figures to do well in Mugello, sits eight points behind Marquez, with Crutchlow and Smith waging The Second Battle of Britain in seventh and eighth places, separated by a single point.

RossiA word about Valentino Rossi—podium #201 was his today, leading me to project when he will reach #300 (2022), #400 (2030) and #500 (2039), just in time for his 60th birthday.  I hope that whomever is writing this column at that time remembers to give him props.

Seriously, this is getting ridiculous.  At age 36 he shows no signs of slowing down, dominating a young man’s game like no other before him.  Had he not gotten his nose out of joint and accepted the millions offered him by Ducati for two years of perdition, he would already have a leg up on podium #300.  Much like Michael Jordan after his two season train wreck/experiment with baseball, Rossi has been welcomed back by the Yamaha team he should never have left, picking up right where he left off at the end of 2010.  Better, in fact, than he was at the end of 2010.  His next venture after MotoGP should be the marketing of The Valentino Rossi Diet, one which guarantees to take five years off your appearance every ten years. The diet, one imagines, will preclude alcohol, tobacco and chasing women.  And while strict adherents to the plan will not live forever, it will certainly seem that way.

Old jokes are good jokes.

On to Mugello

As if the Repsol Honda team didn’t have enough to worry about already, the next stop on the schedule rests in the picturesque Tuscan hills overlooking the fabled city of Bologna, Italy, home of Mugello, a Yamaha track if ever there was one.  These days, it must also be considered a Ducati track.  Today’s result at Le Mans—a top ten comprised of four Yamahas, four Ducatis, a Honda and a Suzuki—came at a neutral site.  Mugello, as most of you know, is anything but neutral.

MotoGP 2014 Le Mans Preview

May 13, 2014

All eyes on the streaking Marquez 

Repsol Honda #1 Marc Marquez sits atop the grand prix motorcycle racing world with expectations growing at a geometric rate.  Heading into Round 5, he has captured the last five poles, dating back to Valenciana last season, and has won every contest in 2014.  He has topped the timesheets in most of the practice sessions.  Aside from his boyish good looks, all he has going for him is timing, balance, reflexes, intelligence and a really good bike.  The only hope for the rest of the grid this weekend is rain and plenty of it. 

Luckily for the grid, the flying circus will be performing in France, where the last two races have been declared “wet.”  (When it’s heidi_klum_51raining pitchforks and hammer handles, having a marshal flashing a sign reading “WET RACE” is like watching Heidi Klum strut down a runway with some dweeb in the first row waving a sign reading “SUPERMODEL.”  Not exactly necessary.  Just sayin’.)

Recent History at Le Mans

The most recent dry race at the legendary Bugatti Circuit took place in 2011, when Repsol Honda chieftain Casey Stoner got away early on his way to a) the win, and b) that year’s championship.  Behind him, pandemonium reigned, as Marco Simoncelli put Stoner’s Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa out of the race and into the hospital with an ill-advised passing attempt on Lap 17.  Repsol #3 Andrea Dovizioso took advantage of Pedrosa’s misfortune to steal second place from Valentino Rossi, who put his Ducati Desmosedici on the podium for the first and only time that year.

In 2012, factory Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo ruled Le Mans in the rain, beating Rossi to the finish by 10 interminable seconds.  Rossi, in turn, punked Casey Stoner on the last lap, relegating the Australian, who had announced his surprise retirement that weekend, to third.  Afterwards, it was hard to tell whether Rossi was more jubilant over making it to the podium or sticking Stoner’s you-know-what in the dirt.

Dani-dani-pedrosa-9702356-435-380Last year was Dani Pedrosa’s One Shining Moment, as the diminutive Spaniard, who had struggled all weekend and started out of the six hole, put the hammer down at the start and led the last 23 laps of the very wet race, launching himself into first place for the season.  Cal Crutchlow, in his final (competitive) year aboard the Tech 3 Yamaha, managed second place, despite having his entire body held together with Bondo and strapping tape.  Rookie Marquez made it to third place after a three day escapade during which he spent roughly as much time in the runoff areas as on the track.  The two factory Ducati bikes managed fourth and fifth, unable to shake the cursed “mudder” label.

Feast or Famine for Rossi at Le Mans

In his last six visits to the Loire River valley, Valentino Rossi has experienced the highs and lows of his chosen profession.  He followed up his win in 2008 with the comical flag-to-flag outing in 2009 in which he finished 16th.  In 2010 he finished second to Yamaha teammate Lorenzo, and podiumed in both 2011 and 2012 while wrestling the Ducati.  Last year, back again with Yamaha, he crashed out of third place in the middle of the race under pressure from Crutchlow and ended up finishing 12th.

Some years chicken; some years feathers.  After watching his teammate Lorenzo get overtaken late in the day in Jerez by Mr. Pedrosa, Rossi is probably looking forward to a little payback this weekend, especially with Dani coming in at less than 100% fitness.

Latest Honda Fad—Arm Pump Surgery 

Last week both Dani Pedrosa and LCR Honda strongman Stefan Bradl underwent surgery to repair muscles in their forearms that want to bust out of their casings like bratwursts on a hot grille.  Pedrosa, whom we weren’t aware was having any physical problems on his way to another solid third place finish in Jerez, might simply miss going under general anesthesia, as it’s been almost a year since his last collarbone surgery.

Bradl, it will be remembered, had problems in Jerez that indicated something was wrong; now we know what it was.  Although both riders have been cleared to race this weekend, Le Mans is one of those stop-and-go joints that demands a lot of hard braking.  Pedrosa will have his work cut out for him to keep his own personal string of eight consecutive podium finishes alive.

There is no truth to the rumor that Alvaro Bautista requested permission to have surgery on one of his forearms, in order to do a little bonding with the factory Honda riders who aren’t embarrassing themselves this season.  Bautista is not having arm pump issues, just every other issue imaginable.

This Just In—Cal Crutchlow Frustrated with DucatiCrutchlow

Last year, after four rounds, a fractious Cal “I’m Good Enough for a Factory Ride” Crutchlow sat in fourth place for the season with 55 points.  Later in the year, he achieved his goal of becoming a factory team rider, abandoning the Tech 3 Yamaha squad and hooking up with Ducati Corse to take on the badass Desmosedici.  Sure, the Big Red Machine was widely seen as a career buster.  Sure, even the Doctor was unable to get it to work right, suffering through two of the worst years of his life.  But, it was argued, Cal is big and burly and strong enough to bend the Ducati to his will.  He was going to show the world that it wasn’t just about the money.

Um, no.  Heading into Round 5, Cal sits mired in 16th place, a mere two points ahead of Karel Abraham, for God’s sake, with ten (10) championship points to show for his season thus far.  He’s now mouthing off in the media about the junk he’s being forced to ride.  He is the least productive of the four Ducati pilots, two of whom aren’t making “factory” money.  At this point, Cal needs to man up and start running with teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who podiumed in Austin and currently sits in fourth place for the year.  Having made his bed, the Brit needs to lie in it and STFU.  As they say back home, “Hard cheese, old boy.”

New Rubber Coming in 2016

Having grown weary of being the whipping boy for every rider from Valentino Rossi to Gabor Talmacsi since 2009, Bridgestone has announced that it will no longer be the sole supplier of tires to MotoGP after next season.  This leaves the field open for the other three candidates—Pirelli, Dunlop and Michelin—to step up to what is a thankless job.  Never mind all the data the company collects and then ostensibly uses to improve its retail lines.  Not a race goes by without some rider or 12 whining about grip, deterioration, etc.   From what little I’ve read on the subject, Michelin appears to have the inside track.  Similarly, there seems to be little debate that the change in tires will have a greater impact on the sport than the forthcoming changes in the ECUs.

What About the Weather in France This Weekend?

Glad you asked.  As of Tuesday afternoon, the forecast is surprisingly good, calling for fair skies and mild temps, with next to no chance of rain.  Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it.  If it turns out to be a dry race, I suspect there’ll be more Yamahas on the podium than Hondas.  If it’s wet, expect Andrea Dovizioso to find his way to the rostrum.  The race goes off at 8 am EDT on Sunday, and we hope to have results right here that afternoon, even though our favorite Motorcycle.com editor will likely be on his honeymoon.  Congratulations Dennis and Jackie.

MotoGP News: Pedrosa Wins at Le Mans

May 19, 2013

This article is now published on Motorcycle.com.

Dani Pedrosa Wins Shocker in the Rain 

At the start of the 2013 French Grand Prix, the Alien with the faintest prospects had to be Repsol Honda minuteman Dani Pedrosa.  Since joining the premier class in 2006, he had never finished higher than third here.  Though his free practice sessions were good, he crashed in qualifying, putting him back in the 6 hole for the start.  He was eighth in the wet morning warm up practice.  But when the red lights went out, it was Pedrosa who dropped the hammer on his rivals, won the race, and put himself in the lead for the 2013 world championship.  Bravo, Dani! 

80,000 soaked French spectators received more shocks today than a nun in a cucumber patch:

  • Andrea Dovizioso led more laps on his factory Ducati than Valentino Rossi did in the last two years, before fading to fourth place.
  • Cal “It’s Only a Flesh Wound” Crutchlow drove his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha to an exhilarating second place finish, providing his French team with its best result in years, with a cracked shinbone and too many contusions to count, courtesy of yet another hard fall on Saturday.
  • Rookie sensation Marc Marquez finished third—not a surprise—after driving his Repsol Honda all over the park, skirting the gravel more than once, and spending a good part of the day in eighth place.  Marquez is very good.  He also seems to be very lucky, a powerful combination.
  • Valentino Rossi, who struggled all weekend, started eighth on his factory M-1 and was looking strong, running third on Lap 14 when pressure from a streaking Crutchlow forced him into a lowside and an eventual 12th place finish.  Rossi can ill afford more disappointment at Mugello.  In the words of Satchel Paige, he’d best not look backwards, ‘cause something may be gaining on him.
  • Even Nicky Hayden had a good day, moving up from the 10 hole at the start to finish fifth, putting more Ducatis than Yamahas in the Top Five.
  • Yamaha #1 Jorge Lorenzo will, at some point, tell us what the heck happened to his race today.  As our deadline looms, we’re left to wonder.  See below.

For the second year in a row, the race was run in the rain.  Last year, Lorenzo ran away from the field to win for the third time in four tries in France.  The Mallorcan started well today, dogging race leader Andrea Dovizioso and his red Ducati for two laps before dropping like a stone for a dozen laps to as far back as ninth place on Lap 17.  He would ultimately finish seventh behind Fun & Go Honda slacker Alvaro Bautista, for God’s sake.  Was it water vapor inside his visor?  A slow leak in his rear tire?  The heartbreak of psoriasis?  Whatever it was, it left him with a nine point day, buried in third place for the year.  Not exactly a momentum booster heading to Mugello in two weeks.

A Quick Word about MotoGP Qualifying

Across the board in motorsports, everyone makes a big deal about how important it is to qualify well.  MotoGP, buying heavily into this theory during the offseason, decided that it needed two qualifying sessions to sort out the finer points of determining who starts where.  Granted, the 15 minute qualifying sessions are a hoot, resembling a Chinese fire drill, especially at the longer circuits, where coming up with a single fast lap can be a challenge.

Today was a good example of the folly of such thinking.  The first three qualifiers were Marquez, Lorenzo and Dovizioso.  By the midpoint of the first lap, your race leaders were Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Pedrosa, who had started sixth, while Marquez was dawdling in 10th.  On the silliness scale, this ranks just behind the National Basketball Association, where teams play 82 regular season games to secure homecourt advantage in the playoffs, then go out and lose the first game in the series.   Just sayin’.

Elsewhere on the Grid

LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl crashed today for the third time in four outings in his rookie season onboard the Honda RC213V.  After winning the Moto2 title last year and tearing it up during offseason testing, young Stefan and Company must be shaking their heads, trying to get the taste of ashes out of their mouths.  The six points he earned today by finishing 10th are but cold comfort.

Perhaps the best eighth place finish of the year was turned in today by Michele Pirro, subbing for Ben Spies on the Ignite Pramac Ducati.  Pirro, called up two rounds ago when Spies’ physical problems put him on the shelf for Jerez, started in 14th place and moved steadily up on the field all day.  It must be said that Le Mans, especially in the rain, is a Ducati-friendly circuit.

Today’s race put the vast difference between the prototypes and the CRT bikes in clear perspective.  All 12 of the prototypes finished today, occupying the top 12 spots at the flag.  Five of the 12 CRT bikes failed to finish, including homeboy Randy de Puniet, whose Lap 17 crash left him with six (6) points for the season, as compared to teammate Aleix Espargaro’s 20.  De Puniet confirmed this weekend that he will be in Japan this coming week testing the 2014 Suzuki prototype, causing me to wonder who’s in charge of the racing program at the Hamamatsu factory, and what’s in his medicine cabinet.

The Big Picture

Today’s race shuffled the Top Ten standings for the year, elevating Crutchlow and Dovizioso at the expense of Bautista and Rossi, respectively.  The Repsol Honda team must smell blood with Mugello, historically a very Yamaha-friendly circuit, next up.  Everyone expects Yamaha to do well in Italy, with its wide, sweeping curves, thousands of Rossi supporters, and eight wins (plus two seconds) in the past 10 years.  But if Pedrosa and Marquez end up on the podium in suburban Florence, the 2013 constructor’s trophy is likely to go to Honda for the third year in a row.

2013 Champ Standings after 4 Rounds Top Ten

Next Up:  Mugello

MotoGP makes its annual pilgrimage to Tuscany in two weeks, to the legendary Mugello circuit outside Florence.  Ground Zero for the Renaissance is always one of the favorite stops on the MotoGP calendar.  This year, the pressure on Lorenzo and Rossi is enormous, as the season is starting to get away from them.

In our Le Mans preview last week, we compared the premier class battle between the factory Honda and Yamaha teams to the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, and found ourselves leaning toward the tortoise.  Perhaps we’ve been misled by this story for generations.  Perhaps, indeed, young and fast beats consistent and experienced.  We’ll find out in two weeks.

Rossi’s 2nd Straight Win Gives Him Overall Points Lead

May 20, 2008

These excerpts directly from the MotoGP website, a great write-up of Sunday’s race at Le Mans in France:

Valentino Rossi took a second consecutive race victory at the Alice Grand Prix de France, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Colin Edwards. The Italian now holds a three point advantage at the top of the World Championship standings. Rossi’s runaway triumph at Le Mans tied Angel Nieto´s record of 90 World Championship wins.

Rossi Wins at Le Mans

While second row starter Rossi had broken away from the pack early, the battle for the podium was closely contested right up to the line. The Italian´s Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo once again took his share of the limelight, bursting through the field to take second place in spite of a catalogue of injuries. His latest rostrum means that he is now the highest rookie point scorer for an opening five races in history, overtaking hero Max Biaggi.

Completing the all-Yamaha podium, Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards took another rostrum finish not quite in line with his predictions of victory, but nonetheless a fantastic achievement for the newly consistent American.

Poleman Dani Pedrosa relinquished his lead of the World Championship with fourth place, having attempted to lead the race from the front. Some hard moves from both Lorenzo and Edwards at the end of the Le Mans battle left the Repsol Honda rider off the podium for the first time in 2008.

Rossi now leads the World Championship by three points from Lorenzo and Pedrosa, who are tied for second. Stoner is running a distant fourth, while Nicki Hayden, world champion in 2006, trails in the 7 hole with 37 points.

MotoGP Le Mans Results:

1. Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha Team)

2. Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team)

3. Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha)

4. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda)

5. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki)

6. Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot MotoGP)

7. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki MotoGP)

8. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda)

9. Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda MotoGP)

10. Shinya Nakano (San Carlo Honda Gresini)

World Standings After 5 Events

______Rider______Nation___Team________Points

1 Valentino ROSSI____ ITA___ Fiat Yamaha____ _97

2 Jorge LORENZO_____SPA___ Fiat Yamaha_____94

3 Dani PEDROSA_____ SPA___ RepsoI Hond____ 94

4 Casey STONER_____ AUS___ Ducati Marlboro_ 56

5 Colin EDWARDS____ USA___Tech 3 Yamaha__ 47

6 Loris CAPIROSSI____ ITA____Rizla Suzuki_____42

7 Nicky HAYDEN_____ USA___ Repsol Honda___ 37

8 Andrea DOVIZIOSO_ ITA____ JIR Team Scot___36

9 James TOSELAND___GBR___ Tech3 Yamaha___33

10 Shinya NAKANO___JPN___ San Carlo Honda__28


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